Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 23: Julie Berry

Julie Berry

It was a lie. A huge, ugly lie.
I was walking through the halls of the church on a busy Sunday morning and being bombarded with friendly, empty greetings: “Hey, good morning. How are you?”, “Good to see you. How are you?”, “How was your weekend?”.
I smiled and nodded and uttered the tried and true “I’m fine. How are you?”. But I wasn’t fine. In fact, I was as far removed from fine as a person can be and still function. I wanted to stop each and every time and say “Do you really want to know? I’m not fine. I’m falling apart.”  But I knew no one wanted to hear that.
My family attended church regularly when I was growing up and I was involved in every aspect – Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, choir, pianist/organist, youth group leader.  My parents were always there and great providers but emotionally closed off. They never, in our whole lives, told me, or my two siblings, the three words we all need to hear in order to thrive – “I love you”.   As the child of an alcoholic mother, I was an overachiever and the peacemaker in our home.
I became a Christian at the age of 16. I had grown up in the church but am sad to say never heard the gospel. I thought I was a Christian but after meeting the real deal,
I discovered that I was SO wrong. I asked Jesus to be my Savior and left behind a sinful, messed up life.
I always knew music would be a mainstay in my life. I graduated college with a degree in Music Education and spent the first several years of my career as a public school band director. Eventually, I left teaching to go on staff full-time with Campus Crusade for Christ.  My experience with CCC led me to the position of Director of Music Ministries at a large church in Beaumont, TX. I recall vividly the night, in all my spiritual arrogance, that I knelt beside my bed and thanked God for His call on my life and asked that He remove any “garbage” that would prevent me from being as close as possible to Him. I got up off my knees, went on my way and quickly forgot my prayer.
A year later I knew something was very, very wrong. I sought help and eventually began counseling with a Christian therapist. My first session went on for three hours and I learned I was suffering from depression.  My counselor had me read life-changing books, begin applying scripture, and met with me at least twice a week but it was all head knowledge and my condition worsened.
I had been in therapy for over two months and it was a normal Sunday morning but
I cried all the way through both worship services. I somehow managed to make it through the remainder of the day but upon entering the bustling, noisy church office as I arrived at my job Monday morning,  I knew it was over for me. I consciously thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” I muttered some excuse and headed home.
The emotional pain was so palpable that it was now an excruciating, physical ache and I was exhausted from the constant hurt. I wanted relief. I wanted to stop crying. I couldn’t sleep or I slept all the time. Inside my house, I paced and worried and panicked. And if you asked me why, I couldn’t tell you. I just needed it to cease, to end, to be done.
I took out a bottle of sleeping pills and in one last desperate cry for help, I called my closest friend and told her what I was going to do. Within 24 hours I was in Rapha, a Christian psychiatric hospital, on suicide watch.
It was the most difficult two weeks of my life, but I wouldn’t change one single, solitary thing because I finally learned who I am in Christ.  The real Julie, for the first time in my life, emerged.  The incredible pain I couldn’t grasp in my thought process was now being vocalized and healed.  I simply wanted someone to love me. I had spent every day of my life manipulating and pleading and begging, without even realizing it, for someone, ANYONE, to love me for me.
My daily experiences and all my relationships had been wrapped up in the Four False Beliefs as explained in Search for Significance:
#1)Fear of Failure       -  I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.
#2)Fear of Rejection -  I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself.
#3)Fear of Punishment  - Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.
#4)Shame                    - I am what I am; I cannot change; I am hopeless.
God began showing me, one by one, all the bondage upon my life as I lived in constant fear.  What freedom it was to finally grasp the truths in God’s Word and to understand I didn’t have to live like that anymore. Romans 12:1-2 took on a deeper meaning as I truly was “transformed by the renewing” of my mind and thought process.
It didn’t happen over night. Thirty years of “wrong” took much work to correct and heal but God was and still remains faithful.
Two years had passed and my life, my relationship with God and all those around me was so much better and finally “real”.  I often read and reflected on Psalm 30:5 – “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” and Psalm 30:11 –
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing”.  I had met so many people along my journey who had experienced abuse and addiction and false beliefs of their own. Some wanted help, some had incredible testimonies of healing, and some seemed content to remain in their misery.
One day I was praying and talking to God and remembering and thanking Him for healing me.  I asked Him “why me”? Don’t get me wrong. I was extremely grateful and would go through it all again, as painful as it was, to learn all I did and come out of it all healed and whole but I was curious. There are many people in the world, many Christians, who struggle and wrestle with false beliefs. So, again I asked, “why me?”
And as clear as day, God answered. He softly and gently spoke to me and said “Because you asked me to.”  And in a moment, in a flash of time, I remembered.
It was that night I had knelt and asked Him to remove the “garbage” in my life. Honestly, I didn’t remember because at the time I thought I had arrived – that I was all I needed to be as a Christian.
But He listened. He heard me. He was waiting for this spiritually arrogant know-it-all to come to Him and ask to be made whole. And now I know I’m worthy to be loved. Not for anything I had done or will do, but simply because the God of the universe loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.
I’m reminded of the new song we learned a few weeks ago, All He Says I Am.  Powerful lyrics that resound in my heart:  “I am all He says I am. I am all He says I am. I am all He says I am and He says I am His own.”
When I stared into that bottle of sleeping pills so many years ago looking for a permanent escape from the never-ending sadness and pain, I never had a thought that God could bring me through it all to where I am today.
Now, many years later, a damaged, wounded soul has been restored and renewed.
A child who matured into a young woman struggling for attention and acceptance walks in the peace of knowing she is eternally and wholly loved. A person who feared she’d never have a family of her own has been married to a wonderful, godly man for almost 19 years and has three incredible sons.
If you struggle, if you hurt, if you seek to know God more, simply ask Him for whatever you need and give Him permission to go to work in your life. I’m living proof that “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – Philippians 1:6


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